Some days Lynden Middle School science teacher Dan Cichowski brings his mountain bike into class. Then, other days, he brings in his kite surfing equipment. The National Board Certified teacher ties together his love of the outdoors with his love of science.
“I find myself kind of playing around a lot of times,” he says. “Even the other day I wanted to create some oxygen so they could see how steel wool burns in the presence of pure oxygen instead of normal 20 percent oxygen of our atmosphere. I enjoy finding ways to do that."
Cichowski says he stumbled into the teaching profession, after originally aiming toward a career as a fisheries biologist. He spent some time researching for the University of Idaho in the field and found it lonely. Realizing how much he had enjoyed working with kids in a wilderness ministry he switched gears and earned a master’s degree in teaching.
Now he blends together his interests and his talents for both seventh and eighth graders at LMS. “They enjoy the experiments and working together in groups with the lab work,” he says. “We’ve done some really fun things, like rockets and explosions.” But Cichowski says he’s always quick to bring the excitement back to the content, such as with the mountain bike or kite kit.
The mountain bike allowed Cichowski in roads into a properties of matter unit to look at different materials and how they get used in the real world. The trainer kite—a smaller six-meter kite—gave an airborne example of physics “so they can see how forces are balanced between a kite for force and lift.”
In his personal time, Cichowski is first a “family man,” with three kids with his wife, who also works with Lynden Schools. Beyond that, though, he does hope on his bike for rides on Galbraith and Chuckanut mountains, steelhead fly-fishing in British Columbia and kite surfing in Bellingham Bay.
But it is the mountain bike that has caused the most personal injury. “I’ve had to teach in a cast a couple of times,” he jokes. “It is exhilarating, though, heading downhill on a mountain bike.”
Cichowski’s love of science—in all forms, from in the class to on the mountain or waves—bleeds into his classroom, giving all seventh and eighth graders at LMS a taste of his enthusiasm.